LAYING THE GROUNDWORK: Tennessee seeks to make history in return trip to Omaha
By: Zack Troutt
Junior Staff Writer
The All Vol Call in Show
A day after the Tennessee Volunteers defeated the Florida Gators to claim the SEC Tournament championship, few were surprised to see the Vols given the number-one overall seed in the NCAA tournament. There was no build up, or guessing game, during selection Monday, just a formal mention of the team being the best in the nation. The Vols (53-7) are scheduled to take on Alabama State (34-23) on Friday, in the Knoxville regional to start their journey to Omaha.
Tennessee finished the regular season with an SEC tournament championship, its first since 1995, never trailing throughout the tournament. They also won the regular season conference championship by six games, the largest win margin in conference history. The Vols dropped a lone series throughout the regular season against Kentucky, on a soggy, waterlogged weekend on the road. They started conference play with a 12-0 record in their first four series, which included, at the time, top-five teams. The 12-0 start also was the best start in SEC baseball history.
The team's success begins on the mound. The pitching staff has a combined ERA of 2.35, have only allowed 141 earned runs all season, and lead the nation with a combined .96 WHIP. They also lead the nation in walks allowed, and are second in strikeout-to-walk ration. These are mind-blowing statistics, especially with most SEC teams being talented at the plate this year.
Chase Dollander, SEC Pitcher of the Year, leads the group with a 2.21 ERA, and has shown why he will most likely be a first round pick in this year's MLB draft. This pitching staff is one of the deepest in the country. With Drew Beam and Chase Burns being freshmen this season, it’s possible we could see similar results in the coming seasons.
What makes this team different from past number-one overall seeds in the NCAA tournament? They're a complete team. They lead the league in home runs, are second in walks, second in runs, fourth in doubles, and top-15 in most offensive categories. Most of the past top-seeded teams are only elite on one side of the field. However, this is not the case with Tennessee.
Trey Lispcomb is tied for fourth in the league in home runs with 21, to lead the Vols. All but two starters have double digit home runs, and freshmen Blake Burke has 12 homers in just 81 at-bats. If you do the math on Burke, he hits a home run on every 6.75 at-bats. Some have even gone as far as crowning him as the next great power hitter in the SEC.
Only one top-seeded team has won the national championship; the Miami Hurricanes in 1999. It was the first full season which began under the current tournament format. Tennessee possesses every needed tool to become the second team in history to accomplish this feat. If the Vols do what they’re capable of, their historic season will come to a historic end, hoisting a national championship trophy.